SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — The New Mexico House on Friday passed a bill for funneling federal pandemic relief funding to improve broadband internet improvement projects and the state’s road infrastructure after a committee added more spending items to the bill.
An amendment put in the bill by the House Appropriations and Finance Committee calls for using $50 million to build a rural hospital. While a location for the hospital has not been determined, some legislators were leaning toward building it in Valencia County, south of Albuquerque.
Another amendment consolidated $123 million in internet funding to allow state officials flexibility in deciding which technology to improve broadband access in underserved areas, especially rural regions. New Mexico has considered methods ranging from traditional fiber optic cable to internet beamed to the ground by satellites and blimps.
Republican committee members complained that $25 million in existing internet projects have stalled because they have not been funded.
“They’ve been vetted. They’ve been approved, and they’re sitting on a shelf lacking funding,” said Rep. Randal Crowder of Clovis.
Broadband also was also discussed earlier Friday in the Senate, with one lawmaker announcing that state officials are considering buying a new form of satellite internet for rural students — most of whom have lacked internet access through the pandemic.